the Catholic minority in the North in which polarised religious identities have continued to dominate politics.


During the first half of the nineteenth century Wales saw the most striking advances by evangelical voluntary religion in any part of the United Kingdom. Here the Church of England's general problem with inadequate and poorly allocated resources was especially acute in the face of the rapid industrialisation of the south, while its hostile, or at best indifferent, attitude to the Welsh language meant it was alienated from the mainstream of Welsh popular culture. Nonconformity on the other hand had the flexibility rapidly to develop a strong presence in industrialising settlements and a readiness not only to adopt the medium of Welsh but to become a central channel for the maintenance and diffusion of Welsh culture in the Victorian era. The centrality of Nonconformity to Welsh national identity was reinforced in 1847, by outraged reaction to a royal commission report on the state of education in the principality which had attacked both Dissent and the language for allegedly giving rise to backwardness and immorality.56 In the religious census of 1851, only 18.6 per cent of attendances were at Anglican churches, with all the remainder, apart from a tiny proportion of Roman Catholics, at Nonconformist chapels.57 From the middle of the century onwards the Church of England developed an increasingly effective response. A symbolicturningpoint came in 1846 when it was decided not to proceed with a merger of the North Wales bishoprics of Bangor and St Asaph, which had been recommended by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners.58 A further key development was the appointment in 1850 of an energetic new bishop, Alfred Ollivant, to Llandaff, the diocese which included many of the most industrialised districts. He recognised that 'our Church, if it would be a national Church, should provide for the instruction of the people in the tongue not only in which they speak, but in which they think and feel'.59 Although Ollivant himself was not a native Welsh speaker, both he and his contemporary at St David's, Connop Thirlwall, struggled to learn and use the language. In 1870, with the appointment of Joshua Hughes to St Asaph, Wales had its first native Welsh-speaking bishop since the early

57 Currie, Gilbert and Horsley, Churches and churchgoers, p. 218.

58 Brown, 'In pursuit ofa Welsh episcopate', p. 91.

59 Quoted in Davies, Religion in the industrial revolution of South Wales, p. 102.

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